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Ways to Help Support POC’s Mental Health #MMHAM

Written by: Zoë King

Author’s Note: Since I am not a person of color, and thus cannot draw on personal experience to write this post, the information will be drawn from research done by experts on this topic.

This July, we are focusing our content on ‘Minority Identities and Mental Health’, a blog series honoring #MMHAM that discusses the mental health risks, issues, and resources specifically affecting minority populations and identities. 

In our last post, we discussed the ways in which racism negatively affects the mental health of people of color, or POC. While the situation may seem dire, there are small things that you can do to help the mental health of the POC in your life. This list will look into a few of those options.  

1. Be willing to listen

One of the issues that POC may face both in and outside of the workplace is the fact that white people tend to speak over them. Whether it’s in the meeting room, with friends discussing current issues, or sharing personal mental health struggles, oftentimes, the best thing you can do is to just listen. This can apply to public social interactions, such as posts on social media or works by POC creators, but it also applies to listening to the voices of the POC in your daily life. 

On the more public front, as a white person, one cannot fully understand what it is like to be a POC, and thus, even if you are educated on the topic, you will never have a full grasp of it. Additionally, when it comes to topics unrelated to race, don’t automatically assume that you have a better understanding or are better educated than a POC. This is a worse issue than you may think, since up to 60% of POC have been treated like they are less intelligent than they are. Speaking over others on topics they have a superior understanding of is patronizing, and devalues them as human beings, and this feeling of lack of control is one of the threats to their mental health. On a more personal basis, just providing an ear for a person who is struggling with mental health is one of the greatest things you can do for them. Here’s a great guide on how to approach this: Tips For How to Help a Person with Mental Illness.

2. Publicly advocate for POC

Despite the fact that 71% of white people believe that racial discrimination is a huge issue in the U.S., you don’t see that level of turnout when it comes to actually addressing these issues. Oftentimes, because racism doesn’t hurt white people and instead outright helps white people, they may feel less inclined to stand up beside POC facing discrimination. However, doing so is important to make POC feel less alone, more validated, and respected, with the support of people who may not look like them. Without people publicly standing up for what is right, change cannot happen in the way we want it to. Without active change to society, the issues mentioned in the previous post will continue, and thus continue to hurt POC mental health. 

3. Educate yourself on racism

While education is not a perfect solution to the matter of racism, becoming more educated on the topic can help you to better understand race issues and history, interact with POC in helpful, supportive ways, and become a better ally by standing by them and advocating for them. It’s important to do this work on your own as a white person, and relieve the burden on POC to teach others about racism. There are two main ways to approach this: books and online resources. Below are just a few of the plethora of resources available. 

Books: 

  • White Fragility by Robin Diangelo 
  • Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race by Derald Wing Sue 
  • So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo 
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander 

Online Resources: 

Social media can also be an excellent way to learn about POC issues, especially personal experiences and perspectives, but it’s important to fact-check any information you find there before assuming it’s true. Even when sources are cited, it’s best to verify that those sources are being cited truthfully, and not just being used as a smokescreen of credibility. 

In addition to learning more about racism and POC issues, learning more about mental health in general can help you help others with any mental health issues they encounter. NAMI Wake provides a variety of education classes you can attend to improve your knowledge of mental health and how to support yourself and others. Additionally, listed below are other organizations that offer education and resources on mental health. 

Online Resources: 

 4. Donate your time or money to POC-centered organizations and causes 

The easiest way to help support POC is to donate to the causes that help them. This can be done in many ways, by either donating your time to volunteer, donating money, or watching the YouTube videos whose ad revenue goes to these causes.  

Just one organization that advocates for Black lives is Black Lives Matter. For other organizations, here is the official Black Lives Matter Partner list: Black Lives Matter Partners. Here is the Black Lives Matter Caard, which has many resources including petitionsto help contribute to the movement: Black Lives Matter Caard 

There are clearly many different ways to help improve the mental health of people of color in your life. Starting next week, we’ll address the intersectionality between minority groups and how to help those you know who fit in many categories of identity. 

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